Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Organizations Leadership

The Bully Boss

Original Post Published on November 11, 2015; Edited and Republished on January 15, 2020

In an ideal world, everyone would work in an organization where their boss was wonderful and was a superb leader. The bully boss would not exist. This unfortunately, is not always the case. Many times, it is the boss who is the perpetrator of workplace bullying. Having a bully boss makes work problematic and certainly makes maneuvering the workplace environment even more difficult for everyone.

The bully boss is not unique and is just like every other bully. They are often in secure, have low self-esteem, and a poor work ethic. The bully boss is usually ineffective as a leader and generally unimpressive. Being the workplace bully is how the boss has learned to manage their subordinates and they use fear and power to abuse others. Bullying is empowering for the boss because they get their way and control others. Being a bully is powerful.

Having a boss who is the workplace aggressor complicates matters for targets and bystanders. The options and choices to improve and survive the workplace are limited when the boss is the bully.

No matter what, in all situations of workplace bullying, documentation is vital. This is important for both targets and bystanders, but of consequence for the target. Documentation is a means of protection and must become part of the daily grind for the target. So, document, document, document.

Another serious consideration for targets and bystander is whether to stay in this workplace or should they leave. Deciding whether to stay or not requires serious contemplation and it is a decision that only the person can make. Sometimes, just getting out is the best answer when the boss is the bully.

There are other interventions that targets can use in these situations. One of these is to develop and seek out trustworthy allies. The target should try to find allies who would be willing advocate or stand up for the target as needed. Allies can be used as witnesses if a situation calls for this. This is again another strategy of protection for the target. Allies can be used in a variety of ways to protect the target and de-escalate the bully.

A target that is mistreated by their boss needs to give serious consideration about whether they confront their boss about the persistent workplace aggression. Confrontation is not always the best answer nor it always in the target’s best interest. Confrontation can make matters worse. Serious consideration needs to be taken before confronting any bully, but especially the bully boss.

Several factors should be considered before targets talk to their boss. Some of these are as follows:
  • What is the severity of the workplace aggression?
  • What is the likelihood of change?
  • How has the boss dealt with feedback in the past?
  • Does your boss have the ability or capacity to self-reflect on negative feedback?
  • What are the chances of retaliation?
  • Are there allies that exist for the target?
  • If the target does confront their boss, is there another level of the hierarchical structure that they can utilize?
Targets must do a thorough assessment of both the positive and negative effects that a confrontation may have. There is no right or wrong answer whether it is best to confront the boss or not. The target and their safety are always the most important factors. No matter what option a target chooses, they must be prepared to deal with the consequences.

One thing is for sure. Surviving the bully boss is not easy.